Vinegar. It’s not the first cocktail ingredient which comes to mind as you’re reaching for your glass bottle at 5pm sharp, like every civilized person does. It is the stuff of pickled things, after all, not to mention clean windows, Easter egg coloration, and, when mixed with baking soda, uninspired high school science fair projects.

You might be surprised to learn just how well vinegar complements nearly any libation. Its acidity gives vinegar an uncanny ability to slake thirst, as well as innervate the taste buds so flavors can bloom more brightly.

Would I suggest that you keep a gallon of white vinegar next to your Tantalus and ice bucket? Hardly. I’d never propose such an unsophisticated notion to a worldly Shop.Dine.Live. reader. But I would highly recommend placing a bottle of Sharab Shrubs there. This potion is made in Minneapolis with vinegar, syrup, and ample portions of freshly macerated fruit, and it livens up virtually any cocktail you could name.

“I first learned about shrub while I was bartending at Surdyk’s Flights about eight or nine years ago,” said Alex Zweber, founder of Sharab Shrubs. “A gentleman named Mark Moland – who is the owner of AM Craft Spirits, a local liquor, syrup, mixer and bitters distributer – asked me to try one of his shrubs while he was supplying my bar. I told him that I thought it was okay, but sorely lacking in fruit flavor. He challenged me to make a better product. I accepted.

“Shrub originated in the Middle East, where it was used as a preservative before the age of refrigeration. Its traditional recipe calls for equal parts vinegar, fruit and sugar, but we believe that ratio makes a shrub so vinegar-forward that it loses nearly all of its fruity essences.

“It took a few years and lots of trial and error before finally refining three shrub recipes we felt certain of: strawberry, apple rosemary, and Asian pear with ginger and cinnamon. Our shrubs make their fruits the stars of the show, and rely on very little vinegar to bring out their nuanced flavors.

“Sharab Shrubs’ acidity is still just enough to soften a spirit-forward cocktail like a martini or a Manhattan, as well as help to quench your thirst. Even in small quantities, vinegar can manipulate your taste buds in more ways that you might imagine. That is why our shrubs also make such great additions to sauces, marinades and vinaigrettes.

“In 2017 we decided our shrubs were too good to keep secret any longer. They were well received in the Twin Cities, a market that has become increasingly welcoming to new flavors over the past few decades. Many of the liquor stores we approached began stocking Sharab Shrubs right away, and Mark, who issued the challenge that started it all, is now our own distributor.

“Going national with Sharab Shrubs is definitely our goal for later down the road. For now we’re concentrating on conquering the Twin Cities, and next hopping over to the Madison market. In time we also plan to begin offering jams and compotes made with our leftover fruits.”

In addition to his original three flavors, Alex now also offers plum with wild flower honey, raspberry, blueberry poblano, Humdinger (strawberry, grapefruit, balsamic and rosewater) and 18th and Central (pineapple, toasted coconut and lime) flavored shrubs. (These last two of which were developed in collaboration with Tattersall Distilling.) You can learn where to buy these extraordinary concoctions or order cocktails shaken with them at sharabshrubs.com.

 

By David Scheller

East 75

– 1 oz cognac

– 1/4 oz lemon juice

– 1/2 oz Asian pear ginger cinnamon shrub

– 1/4 oz pear liqueur

– 3 to 4 oz sparkling wine

Shake, strain into wine glass and top with 3 to 4 oz of sparkling wine.

 

Apple Julep

– 2 oz bourbon

– 1/3 oz apple rosemary shrub

– 1/3 oz simple syrup or rosemary simple syrup

Add ingredients into a glass filled with crushed ice. Top with a rosemary sprig and apple slice.

 

Jerry Seinfeld, aka What’s the Dill With That?

– 1 1/2 oz of gin

– 1/2 oz strawberry shrub

– 1/3 oz lemon juice

– 1/3 oz dill simple syrup

Shake, strain into a collins glass and top with soda water.